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The Flipped Classroom Series: BYOD Student Response Systems

In the second installment of our Flipped Classroom series, we turn our attention to a technology that can help you bring student interaction into the lecture hall: BYOD student response systems.

Clickers have a great deal going for them in terms of classroom technology. Clickers are easy to use, fairly dependable, and they are reasonably priced. Another benefit is that clickers are not reliant on any classroom infrastructure such as wi-fi capability. Clickers do have one major drawback, they are limited to providing only multiple choice questions. Gathering other assessment data, or the ability to use a variety of different questions types, is just not available using current clicker technology. While clickers do a fantastic job of increasing student engagement and allowing instructors to informally check for understanding, some instructors find the functionality of first generation clickers limiting. Many of those same instructors have been very impressed by the next generation of clicker technology, usually called BYOD (Bring your own Device) student response systems.

Next generation clicker technology is web based and can be accessed by any web enabled device. The instructor will create a question and then post it. Students can then respond using whatever technology they have at their disposal including laptop, desktop, smart phone, iPad, iPod Touch, Nook, Kindle Fire, and analog phones (which can participate if texting is enabled).

The topic of BYOD is gaining significant momentum on university campuses across the United States. According to a new survey from Bradford Networks, “Eighty-five percent of educational institutions allow instructors or students to use their own devices on institutional networks.”

One prominent BYOD student response system, Learning Catalytics, was co-founded by Eric Mazur, a Harvard University Professor and author. Learning Catalytics has incorporated numerous features that significantly increase the functionality of BYOD technology over the previously mentioned first generation clickers. To highlight just a few features, the Learning Catalytics system supports numerical, algebraic, textual, and graphical responses and can automatically group students for further discussion. The comprehensive and advanced analytics also help faculty better understand student performance in real time while lecturing.

Another BYOD student response system, Top Hat, provides several “outside of class” features that offer benefits in addition to the in-class engagement options available to first generation clickers. Top Hat allows for the creation of homework questions as a quiz or assignment, permits students to review the correct answer to questions outside of class but restrict them from answering (perfect for studying for midterms or finals), and also allows for the uploading of powerpoint, pdf, pictures, and other documents for review purposes.

Using BYOD student response systems is a logical next step for universities. These days, many students, faculty and staff members already arrive on campus with Internet connected gadgets. Using response system technology that provides a variety of question types, an opportunity to respond using many different types of devices, and advanced analytics to gauge student performance in real time will become a normal practice at universities in the future.

Arizona State University is currently evaluating many BYOD student response systems in preparation for piloting this technology. How has using student response systems impacted your teaching? How has using student response systems improved your students’ learning?


  1. Bradford Networks Survey: 85% of Educational Institutions Allow ‘Bring Your Own Device’ on School Networks. (1931, May 13). Call Center Software. Retrieved July 10, 2013, from
  2. Bring your own device. (2012, December 15). EdTech Magazine, 1. Retrieved July 9, 2013, from